Goodbye, Station Wagon

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

According to MSNBC, it's official: the station wagon is dead. Again. Dodge is pulling its aggressively named Magnum off the market, making it the latest wagon to disappear. This gives families one less option when it comes time to pick a vehicle that can transport two adults, three kids, a pet kennel, two fishing poles and a full load of groceries.

Of course, I can't imagine weeping for the station wagon. Even though my family had a string of them growing up, I don't have any nostalgic feelings for the low-slung parentmobiles of my youth (except for the reverse-facing third row -- the coveted "way back" -- which seems to have gone the way of leaded gasoline).

Picking a good kid car is tough, especially if you aspire to drive something that doesn't look like a kid car. SUVs are environmental disasters. Sedans make for a tight fit. And, of course, the station wagon is on its way back out.

Then there is the minivan, which is an unmistakable sign of the resigned suburban PTA-goer. I have friends who have said they'd get one only if they were able to park it around the corner. Functional? Yes. Cupholder-heavy? Yes. Hip? No.

I suppose you can always go with a Subaru wagon, or -- if you're above a certain income level -- the slick Audi wagons or the classic Volvo or the absurdly priced Highlander (or Lexus) hybrid, but those are slim pickings for most of the rest of us. Our kid car is a Scion xB, which gets decent mileage and fits the family fine but barely has room for my hockey bag. I'm considering an upgrade, but I can't seem to find anything to lust after.

I am not much of a gearhead, so maybe I'm missing something. Do any of you have a perfect work-life balance car, one that can get the children and their stuff from point A to point B but still seem respectable enough to ferry clients around in?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  December 6, 2007; 7:00 AM ET
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Volvo XC70, or V70. Both great wagons.

Posted by: busdriver420 | December 6, 2007 7:08 AM

Minivans get higher mileage, are less expensive,are safer, and have more capacity than SUVs. I understand that being cool is more important than doing something that is environmentally friendly and safe for our kids. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: ecurbyrf | December 6, 2007 7:14 AM

A minivan can be plenty cool in an ironic way. Long live minivans! They're awesome.

Posted by: atb2 | December 6, 2007 7:24 AM

Volvo XC70, V70 or the Audi wagon, but the ride isn't as smooth in the Audi wagon the last time I test drive one of them.

Posted by: lourd | December 6, 2007 7:25 AM

One more vote for the mini-van.
Safely gets the kids and their stuff from point A to point B; clients can get over it.
When will these car makers (TOYOTA) decide to sell the/a mini-van hybrid in the US?
(Toyota mini-van hybrid has been available for a few years outside the U.S.)

Posted by: robjdisc | December 6, 2007 7:36 AM

I guess I'm not the person to consult--we have a Scion xB and a Subaru wagon. Both have plenty of room for two adults and three kids. The Scion is perfect for regular running around and commuting and the wagon gets pulled into service for hauling stuff--weekly for grocery shopping and my husband's Habitat volunteering and for long road trips and camping trips. And the four wheel drive doesn't hurt when we have slippery days like yesterday!

I don't know about ferrying clients, but my coworkers don't seem to mind being seen in my less-than-cool cars.

Posted by: sarahfran | December 6, 2007 7:41 AM

Nah, I am still driving my pre-kid car (a 99 Mazda protege) and my husband drives a 2000 chevy cavalier. His car is on it's last legs (no wonder-a chevy). I would really like next car to be a Honda Odyssey. Now with second baby on the way, I am really considering it. Unfortunately DH's car will go first and he has no interest in driving a mini van around town. But I think when my car dies, I will get a mini van. But that could be a while. It seems to be the little car that keeps on going and going and going.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2007 7:42 AM

Well, we only have 1 child, so it isn't much of an issue for us. We drive a prius and and Audi A4 (an old one) and my husband has his not-Dad BMW M3 (which you can get a carseat into!).

The M3 rarely gets driven since there is no time so we are always wondering if we should sell it. The Audi is the car we consider our minivan... we're driving it into the ground.

One note on my experience with the Audi. They are wonderful cars and I've never had a vehicle that handled better in bad weather, BUT all the dealers around here are lousy at service (except Frederick, but that's a bit of a hike). Finding an independent mechanic who does good Audi work is difficult - fortunately we found someone - but there are things on it he won't touch. Audi parts are extremely expensive, worse than BMW parts.

All that said, we've always done well buying cars that are 2-3 years old. The prius is the first new car for either my husband or me... used wasn't a good option on that one.

So what to get to ferry a boatload of kids and stuff? I guess I'd break down and get the minivan if that were my situation. Car seats being so huge would be a factor in that decision. It's all temporary anyway - they grow up fast!

Posted by: blinny | December 6, 2007 7:52 AM

Minivans are the new (past 15-20 years) station wagons. I loved the old station wagons, so it is not surprising that I drive an 8 year old minivan.

The best car is one that is paid off.

Posted by: cmac | December 6, 2007 8:06 AM

"...a vehicle that can transport two adults, three kids, a pet kennel, two fishing poles and a full load of groceries"

Most cars seat two normal-sized adults and three children, while a full load (week's worth) of groceries will fit in the typical trunk. I doubt most families transport pet kennels very many days a year, unless they participate in pet shows, and I don't know of many entire households that take their pet to the veterinarian together. Most people don't fish (NTTAWWT, unless one's a vegetarian) much any more, so the ability to transport fishing poles doesn't matter -- and even then, I'm sure that fishing aficionados can suggest alternative methods for transporting fishing gear. In most cases, the main time the scenario occurs that Brian has described is on family vacations (again, NTTAWWT).

The REAL factor is that automobile marketers have succeeded impressively over the decades in conflating their product with people's self-esteem and fantasies, rather than selling it based more on its practicality and economy.

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 8:09 AM

Check out a Mazda5 - it's a minivan on a pretty compact 4-cylinder car base. It doesn't have a ton of storage room if you need to use the third row seats, but fits 4 people and a ton of junk, and from the outside it doesn't look like a van unless you look closely. We just bought one - overkill for a single baby, but good car seat access and plenty of room for the future. There don't seem to be many on the road, but I don't know why.

Posted by: claudeng | December 6, 2007 8:10 AM

"The best car is one that is paid off."

Ooooh, CMAC would get Fred's award -- if he still gave them -- for this quote. Good one, CMAC!!!

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 8:11 AM

We've had good luck with minivans. Certainly no rational person gives a hoot about whether or not their vehicle is "hip" or "cool," right? What a miserable way to live that would be.

Posted by: fan1 | December 6, 2007 8:14 AM

I have a Magnum and I'm bummed that it is being pulled. It's a mom car, but a cool mom car. I've been complemented everywhere for how it looks. The gas mileage in the city isn't what I'd like, but two cylinders shut off on the highway, so you get great mileage.

Bravo for having the Scion xB. My husband and I call it the X-Box, but the new styling isn't as boxy. Bummer. I agree that there isn't anything out there to turn a person on as far as cars go. But then again, my turn ons include awesome gas mileage and quirky styling. If it weren't for the kid, I might consider the Smart. :-D

Posted by: bdreesbach | December 6, 2007 8:16 AM

I suspect that Brian's complaint about minivans not being "cool" was written tongue in cheek. I'm sure he's very concerned about his kids' safety.

The Volvo station wagons rock. My family had the 240, and I loved the "way back." I also love the Toyota Matrix, and it gets about 28 miles to the gallon I think. There are also small SUV hybrids like the Ford Escape hybrid.

Our next car will probably be a Honda Civic hybrid. We've got the regular Civic now and absolutely love it. Now if only Jeep would make a hybrid SUV, we'd be happier than pigs in... muck!

Posted by: Meesh | December 6, 2007 8:25 AM

I love my Toyota Matrix. It's billed as a crossover vehicle, but a wagon by any other name...
It's a great compromise - same mileage as my old Sentra; the reliability of my husband's Corolla; and enough space to haul groceries, two adults, a kid in a car seat; and a 6-foot Christmas tree.

Posted by: sunfleck | December 6, 2007 8:27 AM

"Do any of you have a perfect work-life balance car, one that can get the children and their stuff from point A to point B but still seem respectable enough to ferry clients around in?"

Yup. It's called public transportation!

Posted by: chittybangbang | December 6, 2007 8:28 AM

The current crop of "station wagons" are dying because they're not station wagons. They're compact minivans and SUVs without the functionality. The last SW I owned was a 1985 Caprice Classic wagon with a V-8 305 engine (25+ mpg) that would haul 9 passengers or 6 passengers and a lot of stuff in the back. OR you could haul sheetrock wall board, or full sized sheets of plywood in it with the middle seat folded down! The lifters finally wore out with 262,000 major repair free miles on the clock. (I'd have dropped a new engine in it, but the body was shot.) Now, THAT was a CAR!

I now own a '92 Chrysler NYer 5th Ave. V-6 (23 mpg) that will haul 6 people and a lot of stuff/luggage in the huge trunk. The odometer died at just over 200,000 miles, so I have no idea how many miles is on it. I just replaced the alternator for the first time which is the only "major" repair on it. Providing a very comfy ride, it's a very useful car that comes with panache.

Oh - BTW - I don't buy new cars. They cost too much for what you get. They're better with around 80,000 miles on them.

Posted by: nofluer | December 6, 2007 8:35 AM

The most important "cool" thing is inside the car. If someone has the common sense to drive a Minivan without regard to marketing induced perceptions, that's pretty cool.

Posted by: rick1 | December 6, 2007 8:35 AM

Wow--I'm surprised to hear that. I thought the trend was actually going back to the station wagon, except now they're calling it a "crossover vehicle." I bought a new car in May and tried the Prius but there isn't much storage space and it has a really weird back window configuration which makes it so you have a big black bar across your field of vision in the rear view mirror. The Ford Freestyle (I think?) looks like a station wagon, albeit a long one, but has a third row seat and I think gets decent gas mileage. The Passat wagon is cute, but I gave up my Passat sedan because it was too much of a gas guzzler. I ended up getting a Matrix and think it's a great kid-but-not minivan car; it's small and gets over 30 mpg but has a big trunk that also folds down to make it large enough that you can even move furniture in it. Also, a brand new Matrix was under $20k, which for me was a consideration.

Another thing to consider if thinking about buying a hybrid is that they're pretty expensive for what you're getting and in a few years the new models will get like twice the gas mileage, so I don't think it's worth the money to get one now only to have a doubly-efficient one come out in a year or two.

Posted by: maggielmcg | December 6, 2007 8:39 AM

And amen about the paid-off car! And also amen about the minivan being cool inside--mine drove really well and was comfortable--and was paid off!....but ex husband got it in the divorce. I do sometimes wonder what his dates think when he shows up in it, though...

Posted by: maggielmcg | December 6, 2007 8:41 AM

Back when I was driving a K-car station wagon, I took a business trip to Detroit in the winter. The regular rental car I had reserved was not available when I got to the Detroit airport, so they gave me a Dodge Caravan at the same rate. This was only a year or two after the first Caravans came out. I found that the van had better traction on the icy streets than I had on foot! That's why, when I got home and it was time to cashier my wife's Omni after 206,000 miles, we got a Caravan for her. With seven seats, it's perfect for car pooling. Take out the two rear rows of seats, and we can haul even a refrigerator. Whatever won't fit into the van can be tied to the roof rack.

"Of course, I can't imagine weeping for the station wagon."

Posted by Brian Reid | Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 12/ 6/2007

Any time a model or a type of car is discontinued, it means less choice for buyers. I have no complaints about that K-car station wagon -- it ran for 293,000 miles.

"Then there is the minivan, which is an unmistakable sign of the resigned suburban PTA-goer. I have friends who have said they'd get one only if they were able to park it around the corner. Functional? Yes. Cupholder-heavy? Yes. Hip? No." (Brian Reid)

"Hip" = "Cool," and I've said it many times: "Cool" means either you don't care, or you're pretending not to care. Smoking is cool. Promiscuity is cool. Filthy, misogynistic lyrics (as in, "In Da Club") are cool. Drugs are cool. Cool is stupid. We are proud that we are not cool or hip.

And the phrase, "resigned suburban PTA-goer" is reminiscent of the way Hiram Wesley Evans described his movement in The North American Review for March, 1926: "It lays us open to the charge of being 'hicks' and 'rubes' and 'drivers of second-hand Fords.' We admit it." Except for the "resigned" part. Unlike the writer of the Philadelphia Inquirer article discussed yesterday, "resigned" is not the appropriate description of the suburban PTA-goers that we know.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | December 6, 2007 8:52 AM

I manage fine with a 99 Ford Escort sedan. Seats 1 adult, 1 teen, 1 tween and 1 big hair dog who is too cool to ride in a crate anyway! Get over yourself on the coolness thing. You are NOT what you drive. I agree with the poster who said the best vehicle is one that's paid for. Why scream "I'm driving my kid's college fund" anyway?

Posted by: lbh2 | December 6, 2007 8:54 AM

I have a Saab wagon (bought with an employee discount), and it's great. It's less versatile now that we have a child seat in the back, but we used to be able to use it to haul almost anything we wanted. (of course, looking at Saab's website, I see that they now call it a "sportcombi."

My issue with any non-minivan car isn't that it's unable to handle day-to-day stuff. It's what happens if we have visitors (which happens a lot). Right now, we can fit one, maybe two people in my car (besides me, DH and DD). So when family visits, we either need to take two cars everywhere or rent a minivan. For that reason alone, we're considering getting a minivan if we're lucky enough to have a second child.

One thing I don't understand is people who refuse to drive minivans because they aren't cool. Who cares how cool (or not) one's car is? Aren't there plenty of other ways of expressing yourself that don't involve transportation?

Posted by: newsahm | December 6, 2007 9:00 AM

Brian is sortof wrong. Like Maggie said, wagons are now called crossovers and crossovers are big big big around here. If we could fit in the smaller ones, we would have bought one, but when the smallest is adult-sized...well, the highlander rules.

Passat wagon is a-okay, though teen drives it now. Like blinny, the M3 doesn't get driven much but that is because spousal unit does that work-from-home thing.

That car conversation again...and rick, It isn't marketing that gets me to select a car. It is performance and CU's Consumer Reports all the way.

Posted by: dotted_1 | December 6, 2007 9:04 AM

I loved, loved, loved my Subaru Outback. It was perfect for hauling kids and stuff (until we had our 4th kid) and then we had no choice but to go mini-van. I would recomend the SUbaru to anyone. I felt safe driving it in any weather (we live in PA and get a lot f snow). I hate my mini-van, not because of the stereotypes, but because it is a horrible car. It handles poorly in bad weather and needs constant repair. A close friend has the same make and model year and we often need identical repairs within weeks of each other.

Posted by: michelewilson | December 6, 2007 9:06 AM

Dotted wrote: "It isn't marketing that gets me to select a car. It is performance and CU's Consumer Reports all the way."

Would that there were more like you, Dotted! Alas, advertisers know that there aren't, so they market accordingly to potential buyers' egos.

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 9:09 AM

What a timely post for me - we just bought a new (to us) car because my beloved, zippy and paid for 97 200SX-SER was rear ended and spun into a dump truck (I'm ok now, and kid wasn't with me!). I wanted a station wagon, but we couldn't find a late-model station wagon in good shape in our price range. We ended up with an '05 Accord. I wanted a car with a good reliability record that I didn't have to worry about, and we thought it drove sportier than the Camry. I love it so far, but I still have the 30 day tags on so it's too soon to tell. We sat in the Odyssey, and all the bells and whistles inside would quickly make me forget I was in a minivan, but the monthly payment would be way too high. Our other car (unfortunately still has a note on it as well) is a Saturn Vue, it has great mileage and has been good to us so far. The seats can fold down so my husband can get what he needs from Lowe's for whatever it is he is building this week, and it isn't so huge that I'm uncomfortable driving it.

Public transportation isn't an option for my Chesterfield County to Henrico County commute (suburbs of Richmond) but believe me, I would if I could!

Posted by: RiverCityVA | December 6, 2007 9:10 AM

nofluer- One HUGE selling point for us with the minivan was that we could haul sheetrock and plywood. For some, that's not a big deal, but if you're remodeling a house, you haul a crazy amount of the stuff.

Posted by: atb2 | December 6, 2007 9:16 AM

We have a Matrix and Outback. We'll be selling the Matrix to buy a family member's 2005 Odyssey, as we're expecting #2. Love the Matrix and the Outback, but we need more room for 2 carseats + more. Getting toddlers in and out of the carseat is difficult for me, especially prego, and there isn't enough room for him to crawl in and out of there on his own.

Posted by: kbkelm | December 6, 2007 9:30 AM

tmbgirly, I'm with you on the public transportation. I would love to take the bus to work because I really don't like driving that much. But sadly I live in Apex, NC, and the buses pretty much circulate within Durham and Raleigh limits.

They're building lots of new roads in the area because of all the new residents. But they're not doing a thing about public transportation. I think that starting a state-wide bus system would immensely ease traffic woes.

But no one's asking me.

Posted by: Meesh | December 6, 2007 9:35 AM

Meesh - move to CH! Free buses! lol... Seriously, hasn't Apex changed so much? Sunset Ridge, all the other developments...it just keeps going...

Posted by: dotted_1 | December 6, 2007 9:39 AM

We just went through this in our house -- we're expecting our first baby in Jan, which meant my husband's car (a Miata, very cool) had to go. Being a practical sort whose favorite car ever was a 1991 Camry, he bought a 1997 Mercury Tracer wagon (sister to the Escort wagon you see everywhere). It's paid off and has enough space to tote Kid and Kid's stuff and cats and guitars when we go visiting the grandparents. It's not cool by any stretch, but it's reliable, good on gas and can haul home purchases from Home Depot with no problem. My car's a Focus, which will get us around town or out of town when we don't need to haul quite as much. We looked at the Prius (too much $$$) and very briefly discussed minivans, but I guess I share Brian's aversion to them. I just couldn't do it!

Posted by: csm | December 6, 2007 9:42 AM

It's the carseats that drove us to the minivan. Two carseats fit in the back of the CIVIC but there was no way to wedge anyone else between them. We added the minivan as the second car and are very pleased. It is very nice to be able to carpool, use only one car when extended family is in town and take out all the seats when something large needs to be hauled.

We bought a KIA minivan becuase it was much, much less expensive than the other vans. It does not have all the features but the safety ratings were excellent. Still have the 98 CIVIC with over 160,000 miles for commuting and solo errands.

Posted by: ChesapeakeBeach | December 6, 2007 9:42 AM

I'm very interested in the Jetta Sportwagen as my next vehicle!

http://www.autoblog.com/2007/05/08/diesel-vw-jetta-sportwagen-a-real-fuel-sipper/

VW expects 2008 Sportwagens ordered with the 2.0 diesel engine to get EPA numbers of 40 city/60 highway!

Posted by: mucus99 | December 6, 2007 9:47 AM

We've had a Volvo wagon and a minivan. The sliding doors of the minivan are wonderful! Trying to stretch into the middle seat of the wagon to fasten car seat straps was a pain in my back!

Posted by: VAOrangeFish | December 6, 2007 9:57 AM

I love my 2002 Volkwagon Passat Wagon. It's four-wheel drive, beautiful with leather seats, a space-age dash, plenty of room for my pets (no kids) and all the junk I haul around. It looks "cool" and expensive, and is practical, I paid 1/3 of the price I would've for a new car and I've had no trouble with it at all and it runs beautifully and handles well.

Posted by: hope.ferguson | December 6, 2007 10:04 AM

Mehitabel,
"Most cars seat two normal-sized adults and three children, while a full load (week's worth) of groceries will fit in the typical trunk."

I would argue your point. While many cars, in theory, seat 5, that doesn't count when your dealing with carseats and booster seats which kids are supposed to be using until at least the age of 6, preferably 8. We have a Honda Civic, which I consider a normal size car, but we can't all fit in it. So we have to switch off vehicles a lot. Our other vehicle is an Odyssey. And while the Civic's trunk is fine for normal activities, it wouldn't work well for traveling long distances which we do several times a year. The trunk was barely adequate when there were only four of us.

Posted by: rockvillemom | December 6, 2007 10:15 AM

With three preschoolers for the longest time, we needed a mini-van but have pretty much decided to get something else when our faithful KIA (90,000 miles and still going strong) finally dies.

I've got two questions for you guys:
1. At what point did you finally stop using carseats and boosters? Did anybody actually abide by the guidelines for weight and height? (my middle schooler weighs less than 80 pounds and should probably technically still be in a booster, but there's NO WAY he'd go for that.)
2. At what age did you let your kids sit in the front seat?

It seems to me that once I can put a kid in the front seat, I will have a whole lot more options to choose from in terms of transportation.

Posted by: justlurking | December 6, 2007 10:16 AM

I have a BMW 3-series sedan with all-wheel drive (the 328xi). Although we only have one child, we did drive it on a family vacation and it fit all three of us plus a week's worth of gear for the beach house. Fitting groceries, etc., is never a problem - it has a pretty generous trunk. It drives GREAT in the snow; and I feel MUCH safer in it than in my husband's monstrous V8 4Runner. Ug, I can't stand his SUV! I definitely think that a small sedan is the way to go if you only have one child.

Posted by: plawrimore1 | December 6, 2007 10:20 AM

Rockvillemom, True, I was thinking of children old enough no longer to require carseats.

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 10:20 AM

The Toyota Matrix - it's the station wagon for people who want to pretend they didn't just buy a station wagon. I like ours - it gets the same mileage as my smaller car, and my husband can use it to drive the kid's carpool AND carry an entire week's worth of restaurant groceries (which only fit in his old Jeep if he took the carseat out and put the back seats down, a huge hassle).

Posted by: beardo1 | December 6, 2007 10:30 AM

Second (third?) hope.ferguson and dotted_1 on the VW Passat wagon. Love it - we have a 2000 model that we bought last year. A friend is in the AF and got sent to England; he sold the car only because of that steering-wheel-on-the-other-side thing they do over there. :-) It's great; has only a couple of minor bad habits we quickly got used to. (One of which is that if you don't tighten the gas cap properly the "check engine - emission workshop" light goes on!)

Minivans are perfectly cool, because they get the job done. We went for the Toyota Sienna over the Honda Odyssey (and that year, Consumer Reports agreed with us), although either would be fine.

"SUVs are environmental disasters" - stereotype much? Yeah, the big honkin' Navigators and Excursions aren't so good. But our old manual transmission Explorer got 30 mpg in normal usage (it was rated at 24), and it got 125,000 miles before we sold it because it just couldn't hold 6 people comfortably. Also, the hybrid Escapes are worth looking at. It's amazing what you'll find if you just dump your biases!

(FWIW, our third car is my Toyota Corolla, and that's also great. 38-40 mpg - it was hard to find one with a manual transmission, but I kept looking and actually got a very good deal on it.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 6, 2007 10:34 AM

Most cars seat two normal-sized adults and three children, while a full load (week's worth) of groceries will fit in the typical trunk. I doubt most families transport pet kennels very many days a year, unless they participate in pet shows, and I don't know of many entire households that take their pet to the veterinarian together. Most people don't fish (NTTAWWT, unless one's a vegetarian) much any more, so the ability to transport fishing poles doesn't matter -- and even then, I'm sure that fishing aficionados can suggest alternative methods for transporting fishing gear. In most cases, the main time the scenario occurs that Brian has described is on family vacations (again, NTTAWWT).

Rockvillemom, True, I was thinking of children old enough no longer to require carseats.

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 10:20 AM

maybe all of your comments re: fishing and pets are true for your social set, but once you get out of urban areas, many of us take our dog/s with us in the family car more than 2 - 3 times per week -- to the park, to friends' homes, to soccer games, what have you.

Fishing afficianados -- an estimated 34.1 million people or, about 16% of the US population, hold current licenses according to Fish & Wildlife; further, as of October '06, 72% of all fishermen live in urban areas -- fish at least on a monthly basis. Fishing poles are not the easiest thing to tie onto the roof of a four-door sedan or minivan.

Many of us don't have family where we live and face the prospect of piling kids, dogs, luggage, and fishing poles in the family vehicle a minimum of every 3 weeks either for family or recreational weekend trips.

Restricting your comments to those with children past car seat age - which now is around 10 years old - provides the equally silly vision of 3 17 year old boys squeezing their long legs into the back seat of a civic. Let's hope the driver and front-seat passenger are unusually short, LOL.

To each his own, but Brian's original statement was spot-on for the majority of families who have kids of any age.

Posted by: mn.188 | December 6, 2007 10:36 AM

Justlurking--my friend let her son ride in the front seat when he became heavier and taller than she is (she's 5' and 100 lbs), even though by law he's nine months too young. Her thinking--SHE'S legal in the front seat, and she's way more likely to submarine under the seatbelt than he is. And her car has three airbags in the front per person...only one in the back.

We have two wagons and we will love them to pieces...literally! A 5-series BMW and a diesel VW Jetta. I would proudly drive clients, bosses, anyone in these cars. Comfortable and attractive. But neither car will hold more than two kids who are still confined to any kind of car seats/boosters. That's when you have to turn to minivans or the equivalent.

Posted by: eheinen | December 6, 2007 10:38 AM

We have a 2004 Passat Wagon as our only car - and love it! It is more than enough for us + dog on long road trips, so with a little one eventually it should still be perfect. I'm not a fan of SUVs and he hates minivans, and after driving my Golf, he was sold on the hatchback style & German engineering. Though I am curious to see the new VW Tiguan as well as the SportWagen when they are available.

Posted by: cjmatto | December 6, 2007 10:41 AM

Hey! Our family station wagon (a 1976 Chevy Caprice faux-Woody) is enshrined in family legend.

Other than atrocious gas mileage (which could probably be fixed with improved technology), what was wrong with a station wagon?

In those pre-car-seat-until-you're-20 days, my parents threw a clamshell (or in modern parlance, a Thule) on the top of the car, folded down the rear seat, and separated the back into three zones (one for each child). We could each stretch out, have selected "stuff" with us, and have the important individual child space.

My Mom took half the neighborhood kids to soccer games or the pool in that car. When we got all that snow in the 1970's, my dad (a doctor) loaded down the back with sand and bricks and negotiated every hill to get into work (and transported other people as well).

In its old age, my brother took it to college. Not only could he drive himself and all his stuff down on his own (admit it - after freshman year, none of us wanted our parents there anyway), his fraternity would sell their fund-raising donuts out of the back during tailgate events. Not just a few dozen boxes, the ENTIRE stock.

I get that minivans have certain advantages. A lot more flexible with those movable seats, those automatic doors rock when your arms are full of kids and groceries, the lower entry way makes it easy for everyone to get in and out.

But there's nothing like a station wagon. We're probably buying one of those Subaru Outbacks in the coming year, and our neighbors - who just had a baby - bought their Audi wagon and love it.

I too, see it coming back in the "cross-over" vehicles. Maybe they aren't officially station wagons anymore, but they are starting to look like it all over again.

And besides. When I first bought my plain old Jeep Cherokee back in the mid-90's, the Virginia DMV classified it as....a Station Wagon.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 6, 2007 10:45 AM


For the person asking about kids in the front seat:

UK:

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1993/Uksi_19930031_en_1.htm

US:

http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/CPS/newtips/pages/Tip6.htm

"Children 12 and under should ride properly restrained in the back seat. They should use child safety seats, booster seats, or safety belts appropriate for their age and size."

Posted by: DLC1220 | December 6, 2007 10:48 AM

The VW Eurovan. It is a much-lusted after car here in the northwest. I think it's also loved around Boston. I'll never understand why it didn't take off in the rest of the country. Spacious, family friendly, decent mileage and, if you get the "weekender," you have a table, a top to pop, two rear facing seats (still as kid-desired as ever rebeldad) and more. Seats seven. Perfect for a day trip sledding or skiing -- space to toss the wet stuff, a place to sip some hot cholocolate, etc. It's definitely not a mini van. Right now they're not available new, but my 7 year old one is worth more now than when I bought it. Amazing.

Posted by: rdaszkiewicz | December 6, 2007 10:51 AM

Goodness, MN, I never knew I had a "social set"! If only you knew me, you'd be LOL.

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 10:54 AM

"Children 12 and under should ride properly restrained in the back seat. They should use child safety seats, booster seats, or safety belts appropriate for their age and size."

And the key there is age AND size. Two cases I know of to show the extremes:

- my brother's oldest daughter is now 21. She's small, like her mother. She's 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 97 pounds. She's a size 00. She's gotten into arguments with people who say she's not big enough to ride in the front seat of a car - despite the fact that she's been driving for four years. The age trumps the size.

- A friend is 6'7" tall. His wife is 5'2". Their daughter at the age of 12 was 6'2" (she wound up being 6'4"). Nothing like telling the 12 year old that she couldn't ride in the front seat because it wasn't safe - although by any rational analysis it was much safer for her than for her mother.

Bottom line, use common sense.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 6, 2007 11:00 AM

We have had Dodge Grand Caravans for over 10 years now and love them (we have four kids.) I love being able to carry furniture, plywood, or whatever at the drop of a hat- actually the drop of the seats into the floor. No, they don't get the fuel economy of smaller vehicles, but neither do pickup trucks or buses. Our other car, which I bought six months ago, is a 2003 VW Jetta diesel wagon, which I think is fabulous: 45-50 mpg and pretty good cargo space for a car that size. The 2008 VW diesels will have a larger engine as well as being slightly larger (and heavier) so their mileage won't be quite what the older models offer. As to looking "hip" or uncool in a minivan, I always ask people how many sheets of plywood or drywall they can carry in their SUV or sedan. It's all about how you see yourself, not how others see you. (But then, my folks drove VW microbuses for 30 years.)

Posted by: lcox | December 6, 2007 11:36 AM

We love our Subaru wagon, particularly in wet or snowy weather, but they are just not that big.

We managed to haul teen-aged kids around in a Toyota Camry - any of those similar sized cars will do.

Our strategy was to own two smallish cars and then rent a larger car for summer vacations. Then we always had a new car on long highway trips and weren't driving around town in anything big and hard to park.

Posted by: RedBird27 | December 6, 2007 11:48 AM

Newsahm - I second your vote for the Saab wagon, drives like a sports car and fits tons of stuff. We always said, "somehow, everything always fits into the Saab"

We also have a hand me down 99 Mercedes Wagon that is a dream. I would marry this car if I could. It is wider than the newer mercedes wagon so I can fit three boosters easily across the back AND it has rear facing "jump seats" in the way back that my kids LOOOOVE. So we can seat as many as a minivan! Love this car!


We have avoided the minivan not so much because it isn't cool, but for the sheer numbers. The parking lot at school or the Y looks like a minivan dealership. In the neighborhood, I can't tell one from the other so I just wave at everyone because I can't tell my neighbor's silver Sienna from the visitor's silver Sienna. I have a friend with minivan who left a dent in the fender so she can distinguish her car from the other's in the lot. That's how I know to honk and wave at her too. Something about the omnipresence of these vehicles is off putting to me. That said, they are comfy and useful - but so are sweat pants and I don't wear those every day!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 11:49 AM

Who are you trying to be cool with??? 21 year old college kids or other parents? If you are trying to impree other parents then there is absolutely nothing wrong with a mini-van. I absolutely love our Odyssey Touring Edition. If you like bells and whistles it has navigation, DVD and a whole host of other things. Plus it is safe, reliable and gets good highway mileage. In my mind that is cool!!

Posted by: happydad | December 6, 2007 11:53 AM

Used Subaru Outbacks can be found for under $15K and work fine for 2 kids. 3 is a squeeze, but we manage. The mileage isn't the greatest since it's an all-wheel drive, but it's better than an SUV and a heckuva lot cheaper than a hybrid.

Posted by: glovpk77 | December 6, 2007 12:14 PM

I have to laugh at the comments about big people and cars. When I was 14, I was 5'11", my brother was 6'1", and my dad was 6'6". When we went family car shopping, my brother and I had to sit in the back of every car and report if there was enough room. My dad had to sit in the front seats to make sure his head didn't hit the roof. I never felt like more of a freak than I did on those outings. :P

Posted by: Meesh | December 6, 2007 12:16 PM

I second the Mazda 5, it was on my short list. Another similar alternative is the Kia Rondo. These are both sort of mini-mini-vans. The Mazda 5 has sliding rear doors like a mini-van, which is handy. The Rondo offers the 3rd row seat optional, which is nice if you want the storage space instead of seating space.

Posted by: cjbriggs | December 6, 2007 12:19 PM

Minivan. I've never gotten the whole "I must be cool" thing with grown adults. I'm 41, for goodness sakes. I have kids. Kids have friends. We need to get groceries. All of those things take up space and the minivan offers it. I refuse to buy a huge wonkin SUV with 4WD that I don't need and costs me additional money that I don't have and pollutes the environment more than I already do.

I think people who worry about it should just get over themselves. There are plenty of other ways to show your individuality, and "coolness" if you must.

Posted by: fake99 | December 6, 2007 12:19 PM

I think people who worry about it should just get over themselves. There are plenty of other ways to show your individuality, and "coolness" if you must.
_______________________________________
On the other hand. I just wonder how logical it is to pay $30K for something you don't like and have to use every day? Maybe we should all just wear sweat pants every day becuase they are functional for almost all activities and I suppose that's all that matters really.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 12:29 PM

It seems to me that all utility vehicles (station wagon, SUV or mini-van) have trade-offs between hauling stuff and hauling people. 3rd row seating (which seems ubiquitous in cross-overs, SUVs) is great but it takes away cargo space. My older 4-Runner has room for lots of stuff but seats 5 and I can't imagine being the middle passenger if there were two carseats/booster seats. (There are none). It's human nature to fill whatever space we have (trunks, basements, attics).

And yeah for Passat and Jetta wagons! We have (or have had) both.

Posted by: tntkate | December 6, 2007 12:34 PM

Don't like a minivan? My DW swore she would never drive a minivan. When we started looking for a larger, safer car for her to drive, we looked at everything. I convinced her that she should at least TRY the minivan. We ended up purchasing an end-of-the-year Odyssey, much cheaper than $30k, and DW won't hear of getting anything else. She loves the: sliding doors, room in the back, heated seats, DVD, and the fact that she does not have to bend down or step way up to get in, out, or buckle up the kid (and we only have one). She doesn't have to worry about the door space in the one-car, full-to-the-brim garage and being able to move from the front to the back seats without stopping the car or climbing over seat backs has been invaluable. Once you've tried a minivan you never want to go back.

Posted by: WorkingDad | December 6, 2007 12:39 PM

$30K? Moxiemom, I thought you were dedicated to setting the bar lower for the rest of us ;-)

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 12:46 PM

"On the other hand. I just wonder how logical it is to pay $30K for something you don't like and have to use every day?"

Well, first of all, I didn't pay $30K for my minivan. And second of all, if the reason for not liking it was because you have really tried one out and have issues with the comfort, design, offered features, whatever - OK. But the reasons people usually give are "they're not cool." or "I REFUSE to be a minivan-driving-soccer-mom." Or what you mentioned "it looks like everyone elses." Well guess what? You're not cool - you're an adult. You're also a parent and unless you're going to lock the kids in the trunk, people will see them in whatever car you drive and know that you're a parent. And as far as looking like everyone elses car - all SUVs look the same. All sedans look the same. All station wagons look the same.

I saw a comic strip several years ago (I think it was maybe "Adam") where they were fighting the minivan thing because they didn't want to look like everyone else, so they were looking at SUVs. The last frame in the strip was them in a parking lot filled with SUVs, realizing that all SUVs look the same just like all minivans look the same.

Posted by: fake99 | December 6, 2007 12:48 PM

moxie- Maybe you think more about your car everyday than I do. I use it to drive places. I could be driving the Oscar Meyer weiner car for all I care. My used Odyssey was $10K. It's ugly as sin, but it's so EASY. People love ugly babies, too.

tntkae- You can remove the 2nd row and stow the 3rd row in the minivan and fit in sheetrock and plywood. I don't believe this is true for SUVs and station wagons.

Posted by: atb2 | December 6, 2007 12:51 PM

Anyone who believes there is no coolness factor in purchasing a hybrid or similar vehicle is kidding themselves. It is possible to make zero emission gas burning vehicles, but nobody wants to buy them. Maybe they aren't cool enough?

If people didn't care what they drove, there wouldn't be so many different types of vehicles.

Who damages the environment more, the guy with the 10 year old honda that drives 600 miles a week or the guy with the 2007 SUV who drives 150 miles?

Posted by: daves000 | December 6, 2007 1:07 PM

Cool, who are you trying to be cool to? If you're old enough to have kids and be paying off a car shouldn't you be past that to some degree already? Besides, this isn't California. Most people around here don't seem to notice, much less care unless your wheels are tricked out beyond comprehension.

Get the minivan, the mom jeans, the coupon clippings and whatever other accoutrements of staid parenthood and suburbanity if you need them. My wife and I have an old Plymouth station wagon I inherited from my grandmother AND a Dodge Minivan. Both work great for the soccer practices (yes, soccer practices) and the Costco runs. Previous generations didn't seem nearly so materialistically status-obsessed. Honestly, people. You just need to know who YOU are and not be so worried about other peoples' opinion.

(Now it's time to fire up the Corvette and sneak away out the back door...)

;)

Posted by: nvamikeyo | December 6, 2007 1:09 PM

Is there such a thing as a seatbelt extender? The problem is trying to buckle the preschooler into his booster because there is such a tight squeeze to weave his seatbelt into the tight area between his booster and the baby's car seat. If the short part of his seat belt (the "female" end, if you will, although this always makes what I'm trying to describe sound kinky) were longer -- even by just a couple of inches-- that would make it so much easier. Then that end would always be raised up above the crush of the booster and the car seat. I know that there are seatbelt extenders for making the "male" end longer -- but what about the other end? This silly little problem eats up sometimes several frustrating minutes of my time!

Posted by: baby-work | December 6, 2007 1:10 PM

"Who damages the environment more, the guy with the 10 year old honda that drives 600 miles a week or the guy with the 2007 SUV who drives 150 miles?"

The fugly...

Posted by: chittybangbang | December 6, 2007 1:10 PM

I draw the line at mom jeans, nvamikeyo! I don't equate cars with clothes. I haven't encountered any cars that make me look fat.

Posted by: atb2 | December 6, 2007 1:16 PM

I'm wondering what big families did before minivans... why were they magically able to haul 3+ children and groceries and fishing poles but suddenly we need minivans just to take a kid to soccer practice? I live in a city and use public transportation - the lack of car payment more than makes up for more expensive rents

Posted by: jules8172 | December 6, 2007 1:26 PM

We have a 1996 Outback and it is great for two kids! However, we just purchased a 2003 VW EuroVan Weekender...they are not made anymore, so it is an instant Classic and with only like 15k in the States sure to be the only one on your block or parking lot:) I really wanted the Porsche Cayenne...I guess that I have to wait 3 more years!

Posted by: KirkGoodwin | December 6, 2007 1:28 PM

to jules8172 -- it seems to me that communities (even the burbs) were more walking friendly. Also kids walked to school and organized league sports started at a later age.

atb: you are correct. large sheets of plywood and the like have to be laid across the wheel wells in my cargo area. A minor inconvience every once and awhile. If I had it to do over again I wouldn't have been talked into the 4runner and would have bought a volvo or vw wagon.

Posted by: tntkate | December 6, 2007 1:37 PM

jules- They piled into the backseat, sat on the floor, roamed around seatbeltless...you get the point. Car seats and boosters are gigantic.

Posted by: atb2 | December 6, 2007 1:37 PM

Brian! Dude! The wagon is NOT dead.

Mazda6 Wagon. It was ProudMama's car before she totalled it. To be fair it accident was not her fault. Still, I picked that thing out and loved it.

Torquey V6 engine. Suspension low and tight. Nice leather. CRAZY sound system. I put a Xmas tree on top and a multi-story ladder inside with plenty of room to spare.

It's pretty affordable (ours was a dealer model, just over $20k) and it manages to be very competent as a driver's car, and handy man's vehicle and a kid mover.

I loved that thing. (sniff)

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | December 6, 2007 1:38 PM

Re: blinny | December 6, 2007 07:52 AM

Blinny, I loved my A4. Had the original model year of the Turbo modelled. Modified it and kept it 9 years. I still miss it.

Google a repair shop in Falls Church called "VolksWerks". They are VW/Audi specialists (and owners) and will repair or modify and/every every inch of the car.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | December 6, 2007 1:42 PM

You guys have no idea how sad I am about missing seeing a car-related thread first thing in the morning.

Brian, for a few bucks, you can get a great big 'ole vehicle modified to be powerful, fuel efficient and emmissions-friendly.

This article absolutly blew my mind:
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/120/motorhead-messiah.html

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | December 6, 2007 1:52 PM

"People love ugly babies, too."

Mothers mostly love ugly babies! Let's be honest. Others just pretend to be polite!


What's with all the sheet rock and plywood hauling going on? Is everyone a contractor? I can count on one hand the number of times I've needed to do that and I'm a total DIY person. I can put 16 feet of baseboard in my wagon.

"$30K? Moxiemom - I thought you were dedicated to setting the bar lower for the rest of us ;-)"

I don't have a new mini-van but all the ones that I do see are rolling living rooms, t.v.'s (don't get me started on the kids watching t.v. all the time around town), GPS, I think some even have foot baths. BTW, the Odyssey starts at $25K. I don't drive my car because its cool or not, but because I like it. I have never generally gravitated to having or doing what eveyone else is doing. Not intentionally, just how I've ended up. Heck, that's partly why we liked Saab's even before kids. Just my choice. I like what I like because I like it. Plus, I find it interesting that eveyone is soooo pro mini-van when in a week, we will all be making derisive comments about fat SAHMs, in their mom jeans and mini-vans. Get what you like but don't get all over people for not liking what you like.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 2:04 PM

The station wagon is dead? Please don't tell my 1992 Volvo. It hauled my kids around and is now a semi-cool college car for one of them.

Posted by: becky.mann | December 6, 2007 2:07 PM

jules - well, for moves across country whenever the Army decided Dad had been in one place too long, the two parents and the three of us kids piled into the Chevy II Nova station wagon, put the rear seat down, stretched uninflated air mattresses out, and put all the gear and kids in the back. And let us roam around all we wanted as long as we didn't kill each other. Stuff that didn't fit inside was lashed to the roof on the dealer-option luggage rack. ("Start with a clove hitch. Wrap it thrice, frap it twice, and end with a clove hitch.")

Of course, that was in the good days after Dad made SFC. Prior to that it was all of us and gear in the Renault Dauphine - little bro' got the "cubby hole" or "way back" all to himself - well, except for the suitcases with two weeks of clothes for five people that he shared with.

(I've posted about the Dauphine. It was voted one of the 10 worst cars of the century. 32 horsepower! Body rust! Rotting floorboards! Poor handling! And that was when it was brand new!)

Sound like days you want to go back to, jules?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 6, 2007 2:07 PM

Moxiemom, we are all passing around the same load of sheetrock and plywood.

It is your turn to cart it around next week.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | December 6, 2007 2:12 PM

"I find it interesting that eveyone is soooo pro mini-van when in a week, we will all be making derisive comments about fat SAHMs, in their mom jeans and mini-vans."

The SAHMs are the fugliest...

Posted by: chittybangbang | December 6, 2007 2:13 PM

I'm sure this is up there somewhere, but we love our Pontiac Vibe (Toyota Matrix). Its roomy, comfortable, expandable storage options, great gas mileage and only "sort-of" a station wagon!

Posted by: jenna.moritz | December 6, 2007 2:14 PM

moxie - note to self: never read your writings while simultaneously drinking soda..guffaw!!

Posted by: dotted_1 | December 6, 2007 2:15 PM

Um, what's wrong with the minivan? Let's see: It became uncool because parents drove minivans (out of necessity). So, now, as a parent, you don't want the very thing that parents find so useful.

Great logic. That's the problem with the lemming logic of trendiness. It leaves you looking stupid and impractical (think Ugg boots on a warm day).

Posted by: rlalumiere | December 6, 2007 2:21 PM

"It is your turn to cart it around next week."

I really don't want to. Can Patrick Dempsey hire someone to take my turn? Kind of like W and the draft? Isn't there a commoner who will take my place? Besides, it would cut into my bon bon and Oprah time.

Glad I made you laugh dotted - hope your sinuses are o.k. Also, like your choice of words, guffaw is grossly under used today. I'm going to try to work it into a conversation before bed time. Wish me luck.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 2:22 PM

Let me add, that the day they invent a mini-van with the sliding privacy glass like you have in limos, between the parents and children, is the day I pay $30K for a rolling, "quiet" living room of my very own.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 2:25 PM

"Who damages the environment more, the guy with the 10 year old honda that drives 600 miles a week or the guy with the 2007 SUV who drives 150 miles?"

Depends - what kind of shape does the Honda owner keep the car in? Get an emissions test; find out what kind of pollution you're putting out. Multiply by miles driven. Figure out who's worse.

Like I said earlier - stereotype much?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 6, 2007 2:30 PM

Get what you like but don't get all over people for not liking what you like.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 02:04 PM

You are on a roll today, moxiemom. Truer words were never spoken.

I am particularly unpersuaded by the hundredth person to agree with the previous 99 talking about lemming logic. Seems to me the lemmings are all lined up behind minivans, and more than a few have a sanctimonious bent. Heed moxiemom. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Posted by: mn.188 | December 6, 2007 2:35 PM

moxie - given my sinuses have been out of whack all week with a terrible cold, a good guffaw could only be doing good, imho.

reminds me of a friend who swears that a small dram of JD in the ear kills ear infections...

Posted by: dotted_1 | December 6, 2007 2:36 PM

back atcha proudpapa:

Well I live in MoCo, so don't think we'll be taking the Audi to your mechanic. I love our mechanic, but Audi-specific stuff like some parts of that amazing suspension system, he just doesn't want to mess with. For these things we take it to Frederick.

Much as I do love that car - ours is a 96 and we've had it 8 years - it has had an outsize number of large problems. The design makes many of its systems difficult to get to and work on, exacerbating any trouble you may have had in the first place. My brother-in-law was considering buying one a few months back and my husband and I started thinking back and listing the numerous troubles (suspension difficulties, AC/Heating replacement (which had to be redone several times due to incompetent technicians), entire steering mechanism replacement, wheel bearing replacement, and many, many more!). I have an acquaintence with the exact same car who didn't have anywhere near as many problems, so I know they don't all require this much work. We've pretty much decided that if there were more good options for repairs, we would probably get another when this one goes. That probably won't happen, so I think we'll have to go back to the drawing board.

Posted by: blinny | December 6, 2007 2:38 PM

"Seems to me the lemmings are all lined up behind minivans"

Indeed. Anyone here (besides us) drive a sedan?

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 2:42 PM

I vote for the mini-van. Good mileage and spacious. Quite useful when packing all one's worldly possessions/people/pets for a trip to God-knows-where. Can also be slept in if there are no hotel rooms available. My next vehicle, 'cool' be dam*ed! A "New Orleans" point of view. :-)

Posted by: charrmer77 | December 6, 2007 2:44 PM

The car seat thing is a real problem. Here in VA, you are required to at least use a booster until the child is 8 years old.

My DD is very tall for her age (2.5), so we're now in the position of having to buy one of those uber-seats since she won't fit in anything else. I drive a mercury sable, and I'm afraid none of those seats will fit in my car! Our next car (which will probably replace DHs Ford Contour) will either be a minivan or one of those subaru stationwagons. I'm sort of leaning toward the minivan because with 2 kids in the backseat in carseats, we won't be able to transport anyone else (like grandparents) without driving seperate cars.

They are hard to find, but my dad drives a Ford Focus station wagon (bet you didn't know they made those!) It's a nice car, and I think it only cost like $13k when they bought it (new) a few years ago.

Posted by: floof | December 6, 2007 2:46 PM

We have a sedan that I drive. It works for nearly all of the running around town that I do. I can fit both a week's worth of groceries + a Costco run in the trunk. Once I carried home an 8' ficus tree (ok, a facus); a bit snug, but worked just fine once I put the back seats down.

However, I'll also admit to owning a minivan, but only because DH, at 6'8", is much more comfortable in that than in my Saturn.

Posted by: kate07 | December 6, 2007 2:53 PM

I love my mini van. The newer models are made to look more sporty then the old mini vans. My daughter couldn't wait to drive it after she got her license. I didn't let her (I can only imagine how many teens she could fit in it.)

Posted by: sharonw | December 6, 2007 2:57 PM

We have a small sedan (Toyota Echo) and a Scion Xb. I love them both, they are great cars. They work fine with only 1 child, although it is getting difficult to lift my toddler into his carseat in the Echo without bonking his head somewhere - he can climb into it pretty well though. But not all carseats will work in a car that small, and in fact even some boosters may pose a problem. I can see why people go for the minivans.

The xb has been great for us - I've said this before here, but we can fit two adults, one toddler, an upright bass, amp, and overnight bags - which was basically our requirement when car shopping. It was the lowest cost car that could fit it all, and fun to boot.

Posted by: LizaBean | December 6, 2007 3:11 PM

So, how about peoples' favorite cars of days past? Totally uncool, but I LOVED our 1984 Toyota Tercel station wagon. That thing was solid, reliable, had the kind of 4 wheel drive that you can go in and out of (so you can use it only when you need it and not kill your gas mileage), great mileage, could carry lots of stuff. Man, I loved that car. I'm so bummed they don't make them anymore.

Posted by: LizaBean | December 6, 2007 3:56 PM

"So, how about peoples' favorite cars of days past?"

LizaBean, my vote's for my 1991 Ford Escort. 16 years; 268,000 miles; was oldest DD's first car. Ran great; never gave me any problems; held two adults and three kids in reasonable comfort (the fourth kid was a problem, though :-) Got great gas mileage - 35-37 normally; 43-45 on long highway trips.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 6, 2007 4:07 PM

Wow, they made the Tercel in a station wagon? I think I blocked that out of my memory.

Much harder to block out is the Camry of mid-to-late 90's. Those things still seem to be clogging up left lanes all over the country. Apparently they were dependable because they are all over the place.

In terms of best cars I am building my soapbox even higher for the 96-98' Audi A4 models. Car of the year A(1996) ND engine of the year (1997) don'tcha know...

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | December 6, 2007 4:08 PM

LizaBean, My dad long ago had an old "Christine" car he'd bought used (because it was a cream-puff that had well-tended by an old auto-mechanic buddy of his who was buying a new car). Altbough the movie had nothing to do with my father's choice of make of car, he sure enjoyed receiving lots of amusing comments about the car from strangers who'd seen the movie!

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 4:12 PM

Good-by Station Wagons, Minivans, SUV's, soccer,and plywood. Hello 50cc Honda Scooter - NO INSURANCE! NO TAGS! 100mpg! How cool is that? (OK, not very cool but I don't care)


Posted by: rick1 | December 6, 2007 4:13 PM

Should read: that had been well-tended

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 4:13 PM

Since we are OT - can someone please explain to me the people who drive around with their dogs in the car all the time. Like what is the dog doing at preschool drop off every day? Why is the dog hanging out in the Kroger parking lot? This seems to be something that especially afflicts Labs a lot? Anyone? I'm a cat person and they don't travel.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 4:26 PM

Our dog goes everywhere. It makes him smile. He loves to viciously lunge at anyone who come within 10 feet of the car. Good times. To this day if the phone rings around 5pm, he thinks I'm about to take him to go pick up his Dad at the Metro stop, even though I haven't done that in close to a year.

Posted by: atb2 | December 6, 2007 4:35 PM

Jules--I was one of six kids, growing up in the suburbs in the days before minivans. My parents had a big old station wagon--three kids in the back seat, two in the "way back" and one wedged between Mom and Dad in the front seat. We did whole cross-country road trips like that, with the camping gear in a car top carrier that probably dragged our gas mileage down from 12 mpg to about 7.

I don't own a minivan, but can I just say thank goodness they were invented? I don't get the people who are nostalgic for the "good old days" when kids were packed into cars like sardines. It wasn't even remotely safe.

What I think is funny is that the minivan was developed to appease the young parents who didn't want a station wagon because it was so uncool, and now these minivans are considered the height of uncool. If you're worried about looking cool, why have kids? Nothing is more uncool than going around in public with dried spit up on your shoulder. Once you've been broken in with that, you don't care about your car anymore.

Posted by: sarahfran | December 6, 2007 4:35 PM

our VW Passat wagon is plenty cool, has all-wheel drive (a must in the North East) and has low-ego emissions (sorry, had to do it ;). much cheaper than an Audi (same mechanicals, BTW) or a Volvo and free of all the plastic cladding found on the Subarus. around town driving, our 2005 1.8T 4MOTION gets around 25 mpg and about the same on our trips down to DC (and that's loaded down and w/a long roofbox up top).

my commuter car is an '03 GTI, which my co-worker calls a station wagon. i love the hatch-style of these cars and wagons for the amount of gear than can be crammed into them.

VW has a new Jetta Sportwagon on the way, Saab has a very nice redesigned 93 Sportwagon on the way. just because Dodge has pulled the Magnum, which doesn't appeal to women presumably because it sounds like a condom, doesn't mean this the end of the rd. for the wagon. it just means that people buy wagons over SUVs and minivans because they get better gas mileage and are easier to get in and out of. the Magnum had horrible blind-spots due to the agressivly rakish side windows and small rear window to go with terrible gas mileage. nobody wanted a "muscle wagon", and so it's dead. no tears shed here....

Posted by: SkinsFanInMaine | December 6, 2007 4:36 PM

If you're a Stephen King fan, you'll know that the Magnum was a low man car.

Posted by: atb2 | December 6, 2007 4:38 PM

"Let me add, that the day they invent a mini-van with the sliding privacy glass like you have in limos, between the parents and children, is the day I pay $30K for a rolling, "quiet" living room of my very own."

oooh, nice attitude. Heaven forbid we should interact with our children in the car. I guess your objection to television in the car isn't the fact that it causes a disconnect between members of the family, since you're wanting to just shut half the family off completely.


Posted by: fake99 | December 6, 2007 4:39 PM

"oooh, nice attitude. Heaven forbid we should interact with our children in the car. I guess your objection to television in the car isn't the fact that it causes a disconnect between members of the family, since you're wanting to just shut half the family off completely."

Yup, you've got me pegged! Nothing I like less than my kids - I'd sell 'em if anyone would give me anything wothwhile for 'em. In fact I stay at home, simply to spend more time avoiding them. I will explicitly write tongue in cheek here for clarity sake, which I apparently should have done in my prior post.

Atb = thanks for the feedback - the whole dog lifestyle is a mystery to me.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 4:44 PM

Seriously, what parent on a long car trip hasn't longed for an invention like that? Especially since you can't drop your kid by the side of the road and drive up to the next exit, turn around a pick 'em up to teach them a lesson anymore.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 4:46 PM

ProudPapa, LOL, we had a camry wagon too and my dad drove that thing for ages. The Tercel wagon was great, I think it was phased out around the time the Camry wagon took off - they were very boxy, which I love (after all, we have an Xb now). There are actually still several of the Tercels on the road in my current neighborhood, they always make me nostalgic.

Posted by: LizaBean | December 6, 2007 4:46 PM

I drove a manual 1990 Pathfinder in college, before the SUV craze really got going. It was the biggest dude magnet ever. I did NOT need that much car, and thank goodness gas was cheap.

My husband was in love with a little turd-brown civic hatchback that our mechanic friend learned his trade on, so it was beautiful under the hood. When he took it to get the oil changed, the guys in the shop would go nuts. He was rear-ended, and the car was totaled. It was literally irreplaceable.

Posted by: atb2 | December 6, 2007 4:54 PM

moxiemom,

Our dogs want to be with us. They are part of our family. Riding along on the trip to school or whatever is still hanging with their pack. There's nothing that makes our children smile more than being picked up at soccer, school, whatever, if one or both of our dogs are in the car. I'm struggling not to say something insulting about cats, but I'll leave it at: I can only imagine that they wouldn't want to ride along in the car, LOL.

Posted by: mn.188 | December 6, 2007 4:55 PM

Relevant excerpts from "Dog Tip: Car Trips and Car Safety":
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_CarSafety.php

* For safety, do not allow pets to ride in the front seat, no matter how much the pet enjoys it. Pets riding in the front seat can be thrown into the windshield if you have to make a sudden stop. Also, the pet can climb on the driver's lap, interfere with driving or fall down by the gas and brake pedals, causing an accident.

Another reason to keep pets in the back seat or in a crate is that airbags can pose hazards to smaller people and pets. Air bags can launch out of the dashboard at a great enough force to severely injure a pet or small human. Some cars come with on on/off switches for the bags. Visit www.NHTSA.gov for details about switches as well as a list of dealers and repair businesses that install them. FYI, air bags can be deactivated by a car dealer, but this could affect a vehicle warranty or insurance.

* Secure the pet in the car. An unrestrained pet can interfere with driving and become a hazardous projectile in the event of an accident or sudden stop, hitting the windshield, injuring a passenger or knocking the driver over (or out) resulting in loss of control of the car...

Posted by: mehitabel | December 6, 2007 5:10 PM

mn.188 - thanks for your info. and restraint. I can imagine that the kids dig having Fido in the car. I will say that I don't dislike dogs, I just like cats and not having to walk them more.

Mehitabel-that's scary stuff, I got crazy dog vs. airbag pictures. I suppose if it can kill a kid, it can certainly kill a dog. Glad the cats spend the bulk of their time on the sofa.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 6, 2007 5:48 PM

Oh, and re: the cool factor:

One of the hottest guys in my high school drove a ford pinto. I think the fact that he had this ridiculous car actually added to the mystique and made him hotter, since he was so fabulous he could drive anything and not care (fwiw, a really nice guy, too).

Posted by: floof | December 6, 2007 6:37 PM

We have both a Ford Focus Wagon and a Honda Odyssey.
The Honda is a great vehicle and it goes from day to night without changing clothes, just taking the car seats out.
All of our friends love taking our van when going out.
Plus, the van gets better mileage than the Focus Wagon. That is just a darn shame. It's highly doubtful we will buy another domestic vehicle, simply based on comparing these two vehicles within our lifestyles.

Posted by: hoorayforsaturday | December 7, 2007 7:07 PM

The station wagon is dead?! Coulda fooled me - we just bought one a year ago.

It's a Volvo V70, by the way, and in my opinion, pretty close to your wish for a "perfect work-life balance car, one that can get the children and their stuff from point A to point B but still seem respectable enough to ferry clients around in."

We aren't exactly driving around "clients" but we haven't gotten any complaints from our a) 3 year old; b) friends; or c) pilates carpool ladies.

Posted by: viennamom | December 10, 2007 9:22 AM

"One thing I don't understand is people who refuse to drive minivans because they aren't cool."

The thing I don't understand? People who think that b/c you have a child you have to automatically get a minivan. Talk about falling for marketing. And while everyone seems to think that minivans are so safe, from the reports I have heard that is also a misconception. Yeah, a car is a car and the point should be getting safely from point a to point b while doing as little damage to the environment as possible. Unfortunately those pickings are slim. So maybe instead of minivan owners justifying driving those heaps and nonminivan owners mocking them, we should all be pressuring the car companys to come up with something better?
And I admit it, I loathe minivans. Why should I applaud cars that contribute to our increasing national laziness by not even making you open the door?

Posted by: ginnyandjoe | December 11, 2007 8:50 AM

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